At its most simple, the Seeing Reason mapping tool allows a user to create diagrams or "causal maps." These maps help students understand the information in the investigation of a problem. Students organize the factors that influence or affect a problem and show how these factors interact with each other in cause-and-effect relationships. The tool supports cycles of investigation where students gather what they know, organize that knowledge into a map, and then investigate whether their initial concepts are supported by evidence. Some systems are so simple you don't even have to think about them (you turn the key and the engine starts), and other systems need some thinking, hypothesizing, investigating, and then some more thinking. A causal map helps teams of students talk about their ideas, plan their investigations, and organize their results. It is useful at several points during an investigation—at the beginning when initial ideas about a problem are conceived, during research phases as knowledge and insight grow, and finally, as a presentation of students' fullest understanding of the problem.
By organizing their ideas about a system into a visual diagram, students have a common reference point to reason with each other about cause-and-effect relationships. As they work, they talk about their ideas—both with each other and with their teacher.
Because the maps are representations of student understanding of a system, teachers have a reference point for conversing with students about their reasoning.
The map below shows a student's initial conception of the cause-and-effect relationships involved in a traffic jam. It includes both simple relationships (increasing the number of cars increases traffic jams) and more complex ones (increasing snow increases accidents, which increases traffic jams).
Begin by trying the tool. The Try the Tool section has a demonstration workspace for practice with making a simple map. It also has a tutorial that steps you through the features of the tool.
Once you are familiar with the tool, take a look at the Project Examples and Instructional Strategies sections for classroom ideas and suggestions from other teachers.
When you are ready to start a project, you can register in Teacher Workspace. The project set-up page in the Teacher Workspace is where you describe the project and set up student teams. The thinking tools now come with a time-saving feature to help you set up a project. This project wizard automates some of the steps in creating a new project and allows you to duplicate a project from any existing project example.